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"Voltaire gave the death stab to modern superstition." CARLVLE. 




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Col. Ingersoll's Note to the Public. 

Washing-ton, D. C., July TO, 1889. 

I wish to notify the. public that all books and pamphlets pur- 
porting to contain my lectures, and not containing the imprint of 
Mr. C. P. FARRELL as publisher, are spurious, grossly inaccu- 
rate, filled with mistakes, horribly printed, and outrageously 
unjust to me. The publishers of all such are simply literary 
thieves and pirates, and are obtaining money from the public 
under false pretences. These wretches have published one lec- 
ture under four titles, and several others under two or three. I 
take this course to warn the public that these publications are 
fraudulent; the only correct editions being those published by Mr. 








Voltaire was the greatest man of his century, and did more to free the human 
race than any other of the sons of men. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1895, 

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D. C. 


35 r<JLTON v5 




'T'HE infidels of one age have often been the au- 
reoled saints of the next. 

The destroyers of the old are the creators of the 

As time sweeps on the old passes away and the 
new in its turn becomes old. 

There is in the intellectual world, as in the physi- 
cal, decay and growth, and ever by the grave of 
buried age stand youth and joy. 

The history of intellectual progress is written in 
the lives of infidels. 

Political rights have been preserved by traitors ; 
the liberty of mind by heretics. 

To attack the king was treason ; to dispute the 
priest was blasphemy. 

For many centuries the sword and cross were 


allies. Together they attacked the rights of man. 
They defended each other. 

The throne and altar were twins two vultures 
from the same egg. 

James I. said : " No bishop, no king." He might 
have added : No cross, no crown. The King owned 
the bodies of men ; the priest, the souls. One lived 
on taxes collected by force, the other on alms col- 
lected by fear both robbers, both beggars. 

These robbers and these beggars controlled two 
worlds. The king made laws, the priest made 
creeds. Both obtained their authority from God, 
both were the agents of the infinite. 

With bowed backs the people carried the burdens 
of one, and with wonder's open mouth received the 
dogmas of the other. 

If the people aspired to be free, they were crushed 
by the king, and every priest was a Herod, who 
slaughtered the children of the brain. 

The king ruled by force, the priest by fear, and 
both by both. 

The king said to the people : " God made you 
peasants, and He made me king ; He made you to 
labor, and me to enjoy ; He made rags and hovels 
for you, robes and palaces for me. He made you to 


obey, and me to command. Such is the justice of 

And the priest said : " God made you ignorant 
and vile ; He made me holy and wise ; you are the 
sheep, I am the shepherd ; your fleeces belong to 
me. If you do not obey me here, God will punish 
you now and torment you forever in another world. 
Such is the mercy of God." 

" You must not reason. Reason is a rebel. You 
must not contradict contradiction is born of ego- 
tism ; you must believe. He that hath ears to hear 
let him hear." Heaven was a question of ears. 

Fortunately for us, there have been traitors and 
there have been heretics, blasphemers, thinkers, in- 
vestigators, lovers of liberty, men of genius who 
have given their lives to better the condition of their 
fellow- men. 

It may be well enough here to ask the question : 
" What is greatness ? " 

A great man adds to the sum of knowledge, ex- 
tends the horizon of thought, releases souls from the 
Bastile of fear, crosses unknown and mysterious 
seas, gives new islands and new continents to the 
domain of thought, new constellations to the firma- 
ment of mind. A great man does not seek applause 


or place ; he seeks for truth ; he seeks the road to 
happiness, and what he ascertains he gives to others. 

A great man throws pearls before swine, and the 
swine are sometimes changed to men. If the great 
had always kept their pearls, vast multitudes would 
be barbarians now. 

A great man is a torch in the darkness, a beacon 
in superstition's night, an inspiration and a prophecy. 

Greatness is not the gift of majorities ; it cannot 
be thrust upon any man ; men cannot give it to an- 
other ; they can give place and power, but not 

The place does not make the man, nor the sceptre 
the king. Greatness is from within. 

The great men are the heroes who have freed the 
bodies of men ; they are the philosophers and think- 
ers who have given liberty to the soul ; they are 
the poets who have transfigured the common and 
filled the lives of many millions with love and song. 

They are the artists who have covered the bare 
walls of weary life with the triumphs of genius. 

They are the heroes who have slain the monsters 
of ignorance and fear, who have outgazed the Gorgon 
and driven the cruel gods from their thrones. 

They are the inventors, the discoverers, the great 


mechanics, the kings of the useful who have civilized 
this world. 

At the head of this heroic army, foremost of all, 
stands Voltaire, whose memory we are honoring to- 

Voltaire ! a name that excites the admiration of 
men, the malignity of priests. Pronounce that name 
in the presence of a clergyman, and you will find 
that you have made a declaration of war. Pro- 
nounce that name, and from the face of the priest 
the mask of meekness will fall, and from the mouth 
of forgiveness will pour a Niagara of vituperation 
and calumny. And yet Voltaire was the greatest 
man of his Century, and did more to free the human 
race than any other of the sons of men. 

On Sunday, the 2ist of November, 1694, a babe 
was born a babe so exceedingly frail that the 
breath hesitated about remaining, and the parents 
had him baptized as soon as possible. They were 
anxious to save the soul of this babe, and they knew 
that if death came before baptism the child would be 
doomed to an eternity of pain. They knew that 
God despised an unsprinkled child. The priest, 
who, with a few drops of water, gave the name of 
Francois- Marie Arouet, to this babe and saved his 
soul little thought that before him, wrapped in 


many folds, weakly wailing, scarcely breathing, was 
the one destined to tear from the white throat of 
Liberty the cruel, murderous claws of the " Triumph- 
ant Beast." 

When Voltaire came to this " great stage of fools," 
his country had been christianized not civilized 
for about fourteen hundred years. For a thousand 
years the religion of peace and good-will had been 
supreme. The laws had been given by Christian 
kings, and sanctioned by " wise and holy men." 

Under the benign reign of universal love, every 
court had its chamber of torture, and every priest 
relied on the thumb-screw and rack. 

Such had been the success of the blessed gospel 
that every science was an outcast. 

To speak your honest thoughts, to teach your 
fellow-men, to investigate for yourself, to seek the 
truth, these were all crimes, and the " holy-mother 
church " pursued the criminals with sword and flame. 

The believers in a God of love an infinite father 
punished hundreds of offences with torture and 
death. Suspected persons were tortured to make 
them confess. Convicted persons were tortured to 
make them give the names of their accomplices. 
Under the leadership of the Church, cruelty had be- 
come the only reforming power. 


In this blessed year 1 694 all authors were at the 
mercy of king and priest. The most of them were 
cast into prisons, impoverished by fines and costs, 
exiled or executed. 

The little time that hangmen could snatch from 
professional duties was occupied in burning books. 

The courts of justice were traps, in which the in- 
nocent were caught. The judges were almost as 
malicious and cruel as though they had been bishops 
or saints. There was no trial by jury, and the rules 
of evidence allowed the conviction of the supposed 
criminal by the proof of suspicion or hearsay. 

The witnesses, being liable to be tortured, gen- 
erally told what the judges wished to hear. 

The supernatural and the miraculous controlled 
the world. Everything was explained, but nothing 
was understood. The Church was at the head. 
The sick bought from monks little amulets of conse- 
crated paper. They did not send for a doctor, but 
for a priest, and the priest sold the diseased and the 
dying these magical amulets. These little pieces of 
paper with the help of some saint would cure dis- 
eases of every kind. If you would put one in a 
cradle, it would keep the child from being bewitched. 
If you would put one in the barn, the rats would not 


eat your corn. If you would keep one in the house, 
evil spirits would not enter your doors, and if you 
buried them in the fields, you would have good 
weather, the frost would be delayed, rain would 
come when needed, and abundant crops would bless 
your labor. The Church insisted that all diseases 
could be cured in the name of God, and that these 
cures could be effected by prayers, exorcism, by 
touching bones of saints, pieces of the true cross ; 
by being sprinkled with holy water or with sanctified 
salt, or touched with magical oil. 

In that day the dead saints were the best physi- 
cians; St. Valentine cured the epilepsy ; St. Gerva- 
sius was exceedingly good for rheumatism ; St. 
Michael for cancer ; St. Judas for coughs and colds ; 
St. Ovidius restored the hearing ; St. Sebastian was 
good for the bites of snakes and the stings of poison- 
ous insects ; St. Apollonia for toothache ; St. Clara 
for any trouble with the eyes ; and St. Hubert for 
hydrophobia. It was known that doctors reduced 
the revenues of the Church ; that was enough 
science was the enemy of religion. 

The Church thought that the air was filled with 
devils ; that every sinner was a kind of a tenement 
house inhabited by evil spirits ; that angels were on 


one side of men and evil spirits on the other, and 
that God would, when the subscriptions and dona- 
tions justified the effort, drive the evil spirits from 
the field. 

Satan had power over the air ; consequently he 
controlled the frost, the mildew, the lightning and 
the flood ; and the principal business of the Church 
was with bells, and holy water, and incense, and 
crosses, to defeat the machinations of that prince of 
the power of the air. 

Great reliance was placed upon the bells ; they 
were sprinkled with holy water, and their clangor 
cleared the air of imps and fiends. And bells also 
protected the people from storms and lightning. In 
that day the Church used to anathematize insects. 
Suits were commenced against rats, and judgment 
rendered. Every monastery had its master magi- 
cian, who sold incense and salt and tapers, and con- 
secrated palms and relics. Every science was 
regarded as an enemy ; every fact held the creed of 
the Church in scorn. Investigators were regarded 
as dangerous ; thinkers were traitors, and the Church 
exerted its vast power to prevent the intellectual 
progress of man. 

There was no real liberty, no real education, no 


real philosophy, no real science nothing but cre- 
dulity and superstition. The world was under the 
control of Satan and the Church. 

The Church firmly believed in the existence of 
witches and devils and fiends. In this way the 
Church had every enemy within her power. It 
simply had to charge him with being a wizard, of 
holding communications with devils, and the ignorant 
mob were ready to tear him to pieces. So preva- 
lent was this belief, this belief in the supernatural, 
that the poor people were finally driven to make the 
best possible terms they could with the spirit of evil. 
This frightful doctrine filled every friend with sus- 
picion of his friend ; it made the husband denounce 
the wife, children their parents, parents their chil- 
dren. It destroyed the amenities of humanity ; it 
did away with justice in courts ; it broke the 
bond of friendship ; it filled with poison the golden 
cup of life ; it turned earth into a very perdition 
peopled with abominable, malicious and hideous 
fiends. Such w r as the result of a belief in the super- 
natural ; such was the result of giving up the evi- 
dence of their own senses and relying upon dreams, 
visions and fears. Such was the result of the attack 
upon the human reason ; such the result of de- 


pending on the imagination, on the supernatural ; 
such the result of living in this world for another; of 
depending upon priests instead of upon ourselves. 
The Protestants vied with Catholics ; Luther stood 
side by side with the priests he had deserted in pro- 
moting this belief in devils and fiends. To the 
Catholic every Protestant was possessed by a devil ; 
to the Protestant every Catholic was the home of a 
fiend. All order, all regular succession of causes and 
effects were known no more ; the natural ceased to 
exist ; the learned and the ignorant were on a level. 
The priest was caught in the net he had spread for 
the peasant, and Christendom became a vast mad- 
house, with the insane for keepers. 

When Voltaire was born the Church ruled and 
owned France. It was a period of almost universal 
corruption. The priests were mostly libertines, the 
judges cruel and venal. The royal palace was a 
house of prostitution. The nobles were heartless, 
proud, arrogant and cruel to the last degree. The 
common people were treated as beasts. It took the 
Church a thousand years to bring about this happy 
condition of things. 

The seeds of the Revolution unconsciously were 
being scattered by every noble and by every priest. 


They were germinating slowly in the hearts of the 
wretched ; they were being watered by the tears of 
agony ; blows began to bear interest. There was a 
faint longing for blood. Workmen, blackened by 
the sun, bowed by labor, deformed by want, looked 
at the white throats of scornful ladies and thgught 
about cutting them. 

In those days witnesses were cross-examined with 
instruments of torture ; the Church was the arsenal 
of superstition ; miracles, relics, angels and devils 
were as common as lies. 

In order to appreciate a great man we must know 
his surroundings. We must understand the scope 
of the drama in which he played the part he acted, 
and we must also know his audience. 

In England George I. was disporting with the 
" May-pole" and " Elephant," and then George II., 
jealous and choleric, hating the English and their 
language, making, however, an excellent image or 
idol before whom the English were glad to bow 
snobbery triumphant the criminal code getting 
bloodier every day 223 offences punishable with 
death the prisons filled and the scaffolds crowded 
efforts on every hand to repress the ambition of 
men to be men the Church relying on supersti- 


tion and ceremony to make men good and the 
State dependent on the whip, the rope and axe to 
make men patriotic, 

In Spain, the Inquisition in full control all the 
instruments of torture used to prevent the develop- 
ment of the mind, Spain, that had driven out the 
Jews, that is, to say, her talent ; that had driven out 
the Moors ; that is to say, her taste and her indus- 
try, was still endeavoring by all religious means to 
reduce the land to the imbecility of the true faith. 

In Portugal, they were burning women and chil- 
dren for having eaten meat on a holy day, and this 
to please the most merciful God, 

In Italy, the nation prostrate, covered with swarms 
of cardinals and bishops and priests and monks and 
nuns and every representative of holy sloth. The 
Inquisition there also while hands that were 
clasped in prayer or stretched for alms, grasped with 
eagerness and joy the lever of the rack, or gathered 
fagots for the holy flame. 

In Germany, they were burning men and women 
charged with having made a compact with the 
enemy of man. 

And in our own fair land, persecuting Quakers, 
stealing men and women from another shore, steal- 


ing children from their mother's breasts, and paying 
labor with the cruel lash. 

Superstition ruled the world ! 

There is but one use for law, but one excuse for 
government the preservation of liberty to give 
to each man his own, to secure to the farmer what 
he produces from the soil, the mechanic what he in- 
vents and makes, to the artist what he creates, to 
the thinker the right to express his thoughts. Lib- 
erty is the breath of progress. 

In France, the people were the sport of a king's 
caprice. Everywhere was the shadow of the Bas- 
tile. It fell upon the sunniest field, upon the happi- 
est home. With the king walked the headsman ; 
back of the throne was the chamber of torture.- The 
Church appealed to the rack, and Faith relied on 
the fagot. Science was an outcast, and Philosophy, 
so-called, was the pander of superstition. 

Nobles and priests were sacred. Peasants were 
vermin. Idleness sat at the banquet, and Industry 
gathered the crumbs and the crusts. 




\ 7OLTAIRE was of the people. In the language 
of that day, he had no ancestors. His real name 
was Francois- Marie Arouet. His mother was Mar- 
guerite d'Aumard. This mother died when he was 
seven years of age. He had an elder brother, 
Armand, who was a devotee, very religious and ex- 
ceedingly disagreeable. This brother used to pre- 
sent offerings to the Church, hoping to make amends 
for the unbelief of his brother. So far as we know, 
none of his ancestors were literary people. 

The Arouets had never written a line. The Abbe 
de Chatilieu was his godfather, and, although an 
abbe, was a Deist who cared nothing about religion 
except in connection with his salary. Voltaire's 
father wanted to make a lawyer of him, but he had 
no taste for law. At the age of ten he entered the 
college of Louis Le Grand. This was a Jesuit 
school, and here he remained for seven years, leav- 
ing at seventeen, and never attending any other 


school. According to Voltaire, he learned nothing 
at this school but a little Greek, a good deal of 
Latin and a vast amount of nonsense. 

In this college of Louis Le Grand they did not 
teach geography, history, mathematics or any science. 
This was a Catholic institution, controlled by the 
Jesuits. In that day the religion was defended, was 
protected or supported by the State. Behind the 
entire creed were the bayonet, the ax, the wheel, 
the fagot and the torture chamber. 

While Voltaire was attending the college of Louis 
Le Grand the soldiers of the king were hunting 
Protestants in the mountains of Cevennes for masfis- 


istrates to hang on gibbets, to put to torture, to 
break on the wheel, or to burn at the stake. 

At seventeen Voltaire determined to devote his 
life to literature. The father said, speaking of his 
two sons Armand and Francois, " I have a pair of 
fools for sons, one in verse and the other in prose." 

In 1713 Voltaire, in a small way, became a cliplo 
mat. He went to The Hague attached to the French 
minister, and there he fell in love. The girl's 
mother objected. Voltaire sent his clothes to the 
young lady that she might visit him. Everything 
was discovered and he was dismissed. To this girl 


he wrote a letter, and in it you will find the key note 
of Voltaire : " Do not expose yourself to the fury 
of your mother. You know what she is capable of. 
You have experienced it too well. Dissemble ; it is 
your only chance. Tell her that you have forgotten 
me, that you hate me ; then after telling her, love 
me all the more." 

On account of this episode Voltaire was formally 
disinherited by his father. The father procured an 
order of arrest and gave his son the choice of going 
to prison or beyond the seas. He finally consented 
to become a lawyer, and says : " I have already 
been a week at work in the office of a solicitor 
learning the trade of a pettifogger." 

About this time he competed for a prize, writing 
a poem on the king's generosity in building the new 
choir in the cathedral Notre Dame. He did not 
win it. After being with the solicitor a little while, 
he hated the law, began to write poetry and the out- 
lines of tragedy. Great questions were then agita- 
ting the public mind, questions that throw a flood of 
light upon that epoch. 

In 1 55 2, Dr. Baius took it into his head to sustain 
a number of propositions touching predestination to 
the prejudice of the doctrine of free will. The Cor- 


delian monks selected seventy-six of the proposi- 
tions and denounced them to the Pope as heretical, 
and from the Pope obtained what was called a Bull. 
This Bull contained a doubtful passage, the meaning 
of which was dependent upon the position of a 
comma. The friends of Dr. Baius wrote to Rome to 
find where the comma ought to be placed. Rome, 
busy with other matter, sent as an answer a copy of 
the Bull in which the doubtful sentence was left 
without any comma. So the dispute continued. 

Then, there was the great controversy between 
the Jansenists and Molinists, Molini was a Spanish 
Jesuit, who sustained the doctrine of free will with a 
subtlety of his own, " man's will is free, but God 
sees exactly how he will use it." The Presbyterians 
of our country are still wrestling with this important 

Jansenius was a French Jesuit who carried the 
doctrine of predestination to the extreme, asserting 
that God commands things that are impossible, and 
that Christ did not die for all. 

In 1641 the Jesuits obtained a Bull condemning 
five propositions of Jansenius. The Jansenists there- 
upon denied that the five propositions or any of 
them were found in the works of Jansenius. 


This question of Jansenism and Molinism occupied 
France for about two hundred years. 

In Voltaire's time the question had finally dwindled 
down to whether the five propositions condemned 
by the Papal Bull were in fact in the works of 
Jansenius. The Jansenists proved that the five 
propositions were not in his book, because a neice of 
Pascal had a diseased eye cured by the application 
of a thorn from the crown of Christ. 

The Bull Unigenitus was launched in 1713, and 
then all the prisons were filled with Jansenists. 
This great question of predestination and free will, 
of free moral agency and accountability, and being 
saved by the grace of God, and damned for the 
glory of God, have occupied the mind of what we 
call the civilized world for many centuries. All 
these questions were argued pro and con through 
Switzerland ; all of them in Holland for centuries ; 
in Scotland and England and New England, and 
millions of people are still busy harmonizing fore- 
ordination and free will, necessity and morality, pre- 
destination and accountability. 

Louis XIV. having died, the Regent took posses- 
sion, and then the prisons were opened. The Re- 
gent called for a list of all persons then in the prisons 


sent there at the will of the King. He found that, 
as to many prisoners, nobody knew any cause why 
they had been in prison. They had been forgotten. 
Many of the prisoners did not know themselves, and 
could not guess why they had been arrested. One 
Italian had been in the Bastile thirty-three years 
without ever knowing why. On his arrival in Paris, 
thirty-three years before, he was arrested and sent 
to prison. He had grown old. He had survived 
his family and friends. When the rest were liberated 
he asked to remain where he was, and lived there 
the rest of his life. The old prisoners were par- 
doned ; but in a little while their places were taken 
by new ones. 

At this time Voltaire was not interested in the 
great world knew very little of religion or of gov- 
ernment. He was busy writing poetry, busy think- 
ing of comedies and tragedies. He was full of life. 
All his fancies were winged, like moths. 

He was charged with having written some cutting 
epigrams. He was exiled to Tulle, three hundred 
miles away. From this place he wrote in the true 
vein " I am at a chateau, a place that would be 
the most agreeable in the world if I had not been 
exiled to it, and where there is nothing wanting for 


my perfect happiness except the liberty of leaving. 
It would be delicious to remain, if I only were al- 
lowed to go." 

At last the exile was allowed to return. Again 
he was arrested ; this time sent to the Bastile, where 
he remained for nearly a year. While in prison 
he changed his name from Francois- Marie Arouet 
to Voltaire, and by that name he has since been 

Voltaire, as full of life as summer is full of blos- 
soms, giving his ideas upon all subjects at the ex- 
pense of prince and king, was exiled to England. 
From sunny France he took his way to the mists 
and fogs of Albion. He became acquainted with 
the highest and the best in Britain. He met Pope, 
a most wonderful verbal mechanic, a maker of arti- 
ficial flowers, very much like natural ones, except 
that they lack perfume and the seeds of suggestion. 
He made the acquaintance of Young, who wrote 
the " Night Thoughts ; " Young, a fine old hypo- 
crite with a virtuous imagination, a gentleman who 
electioneered with the king's mistress that he might 
be made a bishop. He became acquainted with 
Chesterfield all manners, no man ; with Thompson, 
author of " The Seasons," who loved to see the sun 


rise in bed and visit the country in town ; with 
Swift, whose poisoned arrows were then festering in 
the flesh of Mr. Bull Swift, as wicked as he was 
witty, and' as heartless as he was humorous with 
Swift, a dean and a devil ; with Congreve, whom 
Addison thought superior to Shakespeare, and who 
never wrote but one great line, " The cathedral 
looking' tranquillity." 




A 7OLTAIRE began to think, to doubt, to inquire. 
He studied the history of the Church, of the creed. 
He found that the religion of his time rested on the 
inspiration of the scriptures the infallibility of the 
Church the dreams of insane hermits the ab- 
surdities of the Fathers the mistakes and false- 
hoods of saints the hysteria of nuns the cun- 
ning of priests and the stupidity of the people. He 
found that the Emperor Constantine, who lifted 
Christianity into power, murdered his wife Fausta 
and his eldest son Crispus, the same year that he 
convened the Council of Nice, to decide whether 
Christ was a man or the Son of God. The Council 
decided, in the year 326, that Christ was consub- 
stantial with the Father. He found that the Church 
was indebted to a husband who assassinated his 
wife a father who murdered his son, for settling 
the vexed question of the divinity of the Savior. He 
found that Theodosius called a council at Constanti- 


nople in 381, by which it was decided that the Holy 
Ghost proceeded from the Father that Theodosius, 
the younger, assembled a council at Ephesus in 431, 
that declared the Virgin Mary to be the mother of 
God that the Emperor Marcian called another 
council at Chalcedon in 45 1, that decided that 
Christ had two wills that Pognatius called an- 
other in 680, that declared that Christ had two 
natures to go with his two wills and that in 1274, 
at the council of Lyons, the important fact was found 
that the Holy Ghost " proceeded," not only from the 
Father, but also from the Son at the same time. 

So, it took about 1,300 years to find out a few 
things that had been revealed by an infinite God to 
his infallible Church. 

Voltaire found that this insane creed had filled the 
world with cruelty and fear. He found that vest- 
ments were more sacred than virtues that images 
and crosses pieces of old bones and bits of wood 
were more precious than the rights and lives of men, 
and that the keepers of these relics were the ene- 
mies of the human race. 

With all the energy of his nature with every 
faculty of his mind he attacked this ''Triumphant 


Voltaire was the apostle of common sense. He 
knew that there could have been no primitive or 
first language from which all other languages had 
been formed. He knew that every language had 
been influenced by the surroundings of the people. 
He knew that the language of snow and ice was not 
the language of palm and flower. He knew also 
that there had been no miracle in language. He 
knew that it was impossible that the story of the 
Tower of Babel should be true. He knew that 
everything in the whole world had been natural. 
He was the enemy of alchemy, not only in language 
but in science. One passage from him is enough to 
show his philosophy in this regard. He says ; " To 
transmute iron into gold, two things are necessary. 
First, the annihilation of the iron ; second, the crea- 
tion of gold." 

Voltaire gave us the philosophy of history. 

Voltaire was a man of humor, of good nature, of 
cheerfulness. He despised with all his heart the 
philosophy of Calvin, the creed of the sombre, of the 
severe, of the unnatural. He pitied those who 
needed the aid of religion to be honest, to be cheer- 
ful. He had the courage to enjoy the present and 
the philosophy to bear what the future might bring. 


And yet for more than a hundred and fifty years the 
Christian world has fought this man and has maligned 
his memory. In every Christian pulpit his name has 
been pronounced with scorn, and every pulpit has 
been an arsenal of slander. He is one man of whom 
no rthodox minister has ever told the truth. He 
has been denounced equally by Catholics and Prot- 

Priests and ministers, bishops and exhorters, pre- 
siding elders and popes have filled the world with 
slanders, with calumnies about Voltaire. I am 
amazed that ministers will not or cannot tell the 
truth about an enemy of the Church. As a matter 
of fact, for more than one thousand years, almost 
every pulpit has been a mint in which slanders have 
been coined. 

Voltaire made up his mind to destroy the super- 
stition of his time. 

He fought with every weapon that genius could 
devise or use. He was the greatest of all caricatur- 
ists, and he used this wonderful gift without mercy. 
For pure crystallized wit, he had no equal. The art 
of flattery was carried by him to the height of an 
exact science. He knew and practiced every sub- 
terfuge. He fought the army of hypocrisy and pre- 
tense, the army of faith and falsehood. 


Voltaire was annoyed by the meaner and baser 
spirits of his time, by the cringers and crawlers, by 
the fawners and pretenders, by those who wished to 
gain the favor of priests, the patronage of nobles. 
Sometimes he allowed himself to be annoyed by 
these wretches ; sometimes he attacked them. And, 
but for these attacks, long ago they would have 
been forgotten. In the amber of his genius Voltaire 
preserved these insects, these tarantulas, these 

It is fashionable to say that he was not profound. 
This is because he was not stupid. In the presence 
of absurdity he laughed, and was called irreverent. 
He thought God would not damn even a priest for- 
ever this was regarded as blasphemy. He en- 
deavored to prevent Christians from murdering each 
other, and did what he could to civilize the disciples 
of Christ. Had he founded a sect, obtained control 
of some country, and burned a few heretics at slow 
fires, he would have won the admiration, respect and 
love of the Christian world. Had he only pretended 
to believe all the fables of antiquity, had he mum- 
bled Latin prayers, counted beads, crossed himself, 
devoured now and then the flesh of God, and carried 
fagots to the feet of Philosophy in the name of 


might have been in Heaven this moment, 
g a sight of the damned. 

t had only adopted the creed of his time if 
he had asserted that a God of infinite power and 
mercy had created millions and billions of human 
beings to suffer eternal pain, and all for the sake of 
his glorious justice that he had given his power of 
attorney to a cunning and cruel Italian Pope, author- 
izing him to save the soul of his mistress and send 
honest wives to hell if he had given to the nostrils 
of this God the odor of burning flesh the incense 
of the fagot if he had filled his ears with the 
shrieks of the tortured the music of the rack, he 
would now be known as Saint Voltaire. 

For many years this restless man filled Europe 
with the product of his brain. Essays, epigrams, 
epics, comedies, tragedies, histories, poems, novels, 
representing every phase and every faculty of the 
human mind. At the same time engrossed in busi- 
ness, full of speculation, making money like a million- 
aire, busy with the gossip of courts, and even with 
the scandals of priests. At the same time alive to 
all the discoveries of science and the theories of 
philosophers, and in this Babel never forgetting for 
one moment to assail the monster of superstition. 


Sleeping and waking he hated the Church. With 
the eyes of Argus he watched, and with the arms of 
Briareus he struck. For sixty years he waged con- 
tinuous and unrelenting war, sometimes in the open 
field, sometimes striking from the hedges of oppor- 
tunity taking care during all this time to remain 
independent of all men. He was in the highest 
sense successful. He lived like a prince, became 
one of the powers of Europe, and in him, for the 
first time, literature was crowned. 

It has been claimed by the Christian critics that 
Voltaire was irreverent ; that he examined sacred 
things without solemnity ; that he refused to remove 
his shoes in the presence of the Burning Bush ; that 
he smiled at the geology of Moses, the astronomical 
ideas of Joshua, and that the biography of Jonah 
filled him with laughter. They say that these 
stories, these sacred impossibilities, these inspired 
falsehoods, should be read and studied with a believ- 
ing mind in humbleness of spirit ; that they should 
be examined prayerfully, asking God at the same 
time to give us strength to triumph over the conclu- 
sions of our reason. These critics imagine that a 
falsehood can be old enough to be venerable, and 
that to stand covered in its presence is the act of an 


irreverent scoffer. Voltaire approached the mythol- 
ogy of the Jews precisely as he did the mythology 
of the Greeks and Romans, or the mythology of the 
Chinese or the Iroquois Indians. There is nothing 
in this world too sacred to be investigated, to be 
understood. The philosopher does not hide. Se- 
crecy is not the friend of truth. No man should be 
reverent at the expense of his reason. Nothing 
should be worshipped until the reason has been 
convinced that it is worthy of worship. 

Against all miracles, against all holy superstition, 
against sacred mistakes, he shot the arrows of ridi- 

These arrows, winged by fancy, sharpened by wit, 
poisoned by truth, always reached the centre. 

It is claimed by many that anything, the best and 
holiest, can be ridiculed. As a matter of fact, he 
who attempts to ridicule the truth, ridicules himself. 
He becomes the food of his own laughter. 

The mind of man is many-sided. Truth must be, 
and is, willing to be tested in every way, tested by 
all the senses. 

But in what way can the absurdity of the " real 
presence " be answered, except by banter, by rail- 
lery, by ridicule, by persiflage ? How are you going 


to convince a man who believes that, when he 
swallows the sacred wafer, he has eaten the entire 
Trinity, and that a priest drinking a drop of wine 
has devoured the Infinite ? How are you to reason 
with a man who believes that, if any of the sacred 
wafers are left over, they should be put in a secure 
place, so that mice should not eat God ? 

What effect will logic have upon a religious gen- 
tleman who firmly believes that a God of infinite 
compassion sent two bears to tear thirty or forty 
children in pieces for laughing at a bald-headed 
prophet ? 

How are such people to be answered ? How can 
they be brought to a sense of their absurdity ? They 
must feel in their flesh the arrows of ridicule. 

So Voltaire has been called a mocker. 

What did he mock ? He mocked kings that were 
unjust ; kings who cared nothing for the sufferings 
of their subjects. He mocked the titled fools of his 
day. He mocked the corruption of courts ; the 
meanness, the tyranny and the brutality of judges. 
He mocked the absurd and cruel laws, the barbarous 
customs. He mocked popes and cardinals and 
bishops and priests, and all the hypocrites on the 
earth. He mocked historians who filled their books 


with lies, and philosophers who defended supersti- 
tion. He mocked the haters of liberty, the persecu- 
tors of their fellow-men. He mocked the arrogance, 
the cruelty, the impudence, and the unspeakable 
baseness of his time. 

He has been blamed because he used the weapon 
of ridicule. 

Hypocrisy has always hated laughter, and always 
will. Absurdity detests humor, and stupidity de- 
spises wit. Voltaire was the master of ridicule. He 
ridiculed the absurd, the impossible. He ridiculed 
the mythologies and the miracles, the stupid lives 
and lies of the saints. He found pretense and men- 
dacity crowned by credulity. He found the igno- 
rant many controlled by the cunning and cruel few. 
He found the historian, saturated with superstition, 
filling his volumes with the details of the impossible, 
and he found the scientists satisfied with " they say." 

Voltaire had the instinct of the probable. He 
knew the law of average, the sea level ; he had the 
idea of proportion, and so he ridiculed the mental 
monstrosities and deformities the non sequiturs 
of his day. Aristotle said women had more teeth 
than men. This was repeated again and again by 
the Catholic scientists of the Eighteenth Century. 


Voltaire counted the teeth. The rest were satisfied 
with " they say." 

Voltaire for many years, in spite of his surround- 
ings, in spite of almost universal tyranny and oppres- 
sion, was a believer in God and what he was pleased 
to call the religion of Nature. He attacked the 
creed of his time because it was dishonorable to his 
God. He thought of the Deity as a father, as the 
fountain of justice, intelligence and mercy, and the 
creed of the Catholic Church made him a monster of 
cruelty and stupidity. He attacked the Bible with 
all the weapons at his command. He assailed its 
geology, its astronomy, its ideas of justice, its laws 
and customs, its absurd and useless miracles, its 
foolish wonders, its ignorance on all subjects, its in- 
sane prophecies, its cruel threats and its extravagant 

At the same time he praised the God of naiure, 
the God who gives us rain and light, and food and 
flowers, and health and happiness he who fills the 
world with youth and beauty. 

Attacked on every side, he fought with every 
weapon that wit, logic, reason, scorn, contempt, 
laughter, pathos and indignation could* sharpen, 
form, devise or use. He often apologized, and the 


apology was an insult. He often recanted, and the 
recantation was a thousand times worse than the 
thing recanted. He took it back by giving more. 
In the name of eulogy he flayed his victim. In his 
praise there was poison. He often advanced by re- 
treating, and asserted by retraction. 

He did not intend to give priests the satisfaction 
of seeing him burn or suffer. Upon this very point 
of recanting he wrote : 

"They say I must retract. Very willingly. I 
" will declare that Pascal is always right. That if St. 
" Luke and St. Mark contradict one another, it is 
" only another proof of the truth of religion to those 
" who know how to understand such things ; and 
" that another lovely proof of religion is that it is 
" unintelligible. I will even avow that all priests 
" are gentle and disinterested ; that Jesuits are hon- 
" est people ; that monks are neither proud nor 
" given to intrigue, and that their odor is agreeable ; 
" that the Holy Inquisition is the triumph of human- 
" ity and tolerance. In a word, I will say all that 
" may be desired of me, provided they leave me in 
" repose, and will not persecute a man who has done 
" harm to none." 

He gave the best years of his wondrous life to 


succor the oppressed, to shield the defenseless, to 
reverse infamous decrees, to rescue the innocent, 
to reform the laws of France, to do away with tor- 
ture, to soften the hearts of priests, to enlighten 
judges, to instruct kings, to civilize the people, and 
to banish from the heart of man the love and lust 
of war. 

You may think that I have said too much ; that I 
have placed this man too high. Let me tell you 
what Goethe, the great German, said of this man : 

" If you wish depth, genius, imagination, taste, 
" reason, sensibility, philosophy, elevation, original- 
" ity, nature, intellect, fancy, rectitude, facility, flexi- 
" bility, precision, art, abundance, variety, fertility, 
"warmth, magic, charm, grace, force, an eagle sweep 
" of vision, vast understanding, instruction rich, tone 
" excellent, urbanity, suavity, delicacy, correctness, 
" purity, clearness, eloquence, harmony, brilliancy, 
" rapidity, gaiety, pathos, sublimity and universality, 
" perfection indeed, behold Voltaire." 

Even Carlyle, that old Scotch terrier, with the 
growl of a grizzly bear, who attacked shams, as I 
have sometimes thought, because he hated rivals, 
was forced to admit that Voltaire gave the death 
stab to modern superstition ! 


It is the duty of every man to destroy the super- 
stitions of his time, and yet there are thousands of 
men and women, fathers and mothers, who repudiate 
with their whole hearts the creeds of superstition, 
and still allow their children to be taught these lies. 
They allow their imaginations to be poisoned with 
the dogma of eternal pain. They allow arrogant 
and ignorant parsons, meek and foolish teachers, to 
sow the seeds of barbarism in the minds of their 
children seeds that will fill their lives with fear 
and pain. Nothing can be more important to a 
human being than to be free and to live without fear. 

It is far better to be a mortal free man than an 
immortal slave. 

Fathers and mothers should do their utmost to 
make their children free. They should teach them 
to doubt, to investigate, to inquire, and every father 
and mother should know that by the cradle of every 
child, as by the cradle of the infant Hercules, crawls 
the serpent of superstition. 




A T that time it was pretended by the believers in 
God that the plan, or the scheme of nature, 
was not cruel ; that the lower was sacrificed for the 
benefit of the higher ; that while life lived upon life, 
while animals lived upon each other, and while man 
was the king or sovereign of all, still the higher lived 
upon the lower. Consequently, a lower life was sac- 
rificed that a higher life might exist. This reasoning 
satisfied many. Yet there were thousands that 
could not see why the lower shoulcl be sacrificed, or 
why all joy should be born of pain. But, since the 
construction of the microscope, since man has been 
allowed to look toward the infinitely small, as well as 
toward the infinitely great, he finds that our fathers 
were mistaken when they laid down the proposition 
that only the lower life was sacrificed for the sake of 
the higher. 

Now, we find that the lives of all visible animals 
are liable to be, and in countless cases are, destroyed 
by a far lower life ; that man himself is destroyed by 


the microbes, the bacilli, the infinitesimal. We find 
that for the sake of preserving the yellow fever 
germs millions and millions have died, and that 
whole nations have been decimated for the sake of 
the little beast that gives us the cholera. We have 
also found that there are animals, call them what you 
please, that live on the substance of the human 
heart, others that prefer the lungs, others again so 
delicate in their palate that they insist on devouring 
the optic nerve, and when they have destroyed the 
sight of one eye have sense enough to bore through 
the cartilage of the nose to attack the other. Thus 
we find the other side of this proposition. At first 
sight the lower seemed to be sacrificed for the sake 
of the higher, but on closer inspection the highest 
are sacrificed for the sake of the lowest. 

Voltaire was, for a long time, a believer in the 
optimism of Pope " All partial evil, universal 
good." This is a very fine philosophy for the fortu- 
nate. It suits the rich. It is flattering to kings and 
priests. It sounds well. It is a fine stone to throw 
at a beggar. It enables you to bear with great for- 
titude the misfortunes of others. 

It is not the philosophy for those who suffer for 
industry clothed in rags, for patriotism in prison, for 


honesty in want, or for virtuous outcasts. It is a 
philosophy of a class, of a few, and of the few who 
are fortunate ; and, when misfortune overtakes them, 
this philosophy fades and withers. 

In 1755 came the earthquake at Lisbon. This 
frightful disaster became an immense interrogation. 
The optimist was compelled to ask, " What was my 
God doing? Why did the Universal Father crush 
to shapelessness thousands of his poor children, even 
at the moment when they were upon their knees re- 
turning thanks to him ?" 

What could be done with this horror ? If earth- 
quake there must be, why did it not occur in some 
uninhabited desert, on some wide waste of sea? 
This frightful fact changed the theology of Voltaire. 
He became convinced that this is not the best pos- 
sible of all worlds. He became convinced that evil 
is evil here, now, and forever. 

The Theist was silent. The earthquake denied 
the existence of God. 




r "POU LOUSE was a favored town. It was rich in 
* relics. The people were as ignorant as wooden 
images, but they had in their possession the dried 
bodies of seven apostles the bones of many of the 
infants slain by Herod part of a dress of the 
Virgin Mary, and lots of skulls and skeletons of the 
infallible idiots known as saints. 

In this city the people celebrated every year with 
great joy two holy events : The expulsion of the 
Huguenots, and the blessed massacre of St. Bartholo- 
mew. The citizens of Toulouse had been educated 
and civilized by the church. 

A few Protestants, mild because in the minority, 
lived among these jackals and tigers. 

One of these Protestants was Jean Calas a small 
dealer in dry goods. For forty years he had been 
in this business, and his character was without a 
stain. He was honest, kind and agreeable. He 


had a wife and six children four sons and two 
daughters. One of the sons became a Catholic. 
The eldest son, Marc Antoine, disliked his father's 
business and studied law. He could not be allowed 
to practice unless he became a Catholic. He tried 
to get his license by concealing that he was a Prot- 
estant. He was discovered .grew morose. Finally 
he became discouraged and committed suicide, by 
hanging himself one evening in his father's store. 

The bigots of Toulouse started the story that his 
parents had killed him to prevent his becoming a 

On this frightful charge the father, mother, one 
son, a servant, and one guest at their house, were 

The dead son was considered a martyr, the church 
taking possession of the body. 

This happened in 1761. 

There was what was called a trial. There was no 
evidence, not the slightest, except hearsay. All the 
facts were in favor of the accused. 

The united strength of the defendants could not 
have done the deed. 

Jean Calas was doomed to torture and to death 
upon the wheel. This was on the 9th of March, 


1762, and the sentence was to be carried out the 
next day. 

On the morning of the loth the father was taken 
to the torture room. The executioner and his 
assistants were sworn on the cross to administer the 
torture according to the judgment of the Court. 

They bound him by the wrists to an iron ring in 
the stone wall four feet from the ground, and his feet 
to another ring in the floor. Then they shortened 
the ropes and chains until every joint in his arms 
and legs was dislocated. Then he was questioned. 
He declared that he was innocent. Then the ropes 
were again shortened until life fluttered in the torn 
body ; but he remained firm. 

This was called the question ordinaire. 

Again the magistrates exhorted the victim to con- 
fess, and again he refused, saying that there was 
nothing to confess. 

Then came the question extraordinaire. 

Into the mouth of the victim was placed a horn 
holding three pints of water. In this way thirty 
pints of water were forced into the body of the suf- 
ferer. The pain was beyond description, and yet 
Jean Galas remained firm. 

He was then carried to the scaffold in a tumbril. 


He was bound to a wooden cross that lay on the 
scaffold. The executioner then took a bar of iron, 
broke each leg and each arm in two places, striking 
eleven blows in all. He was then Jeft to die if he 
could. He lived for two hours, declaring his inno- 
cence to the last. He was slow to die, and so the 
executioner strangled him. Then his poor lacerated, 
bleeding and broken body was chained to a stake 
and burned. 

All this was a spectacle a festival for the 
savages of Toulouse. What would they have done 
if their hearts had not been softened by the glad 
tidings of great joy peace on earth and good will 
to men. 

But this was not all. The property of the family 
was confiscated ; the son was released on condition 
that he become a Catholic ; the servant if she would 
enter a convent. The two daughters were con- 
signed to a convent, and the heart-broken widow 
was allowed to wander where she would. 

Voltaire heard of this case. In a moment his soul 
was on fire. He took one of the sons under his 
roof. He wrote a history of the case. He corre- 
sponded with kings and queens, with chancellors 
and lawyers. If money was needed, he advanced 


it. For years he filled Europe with the echoes of 
the groans of Jean Calas. He succeeded. The 
horrible judgment was annulled the poor victim 
declared innocent and thousands of dollars raised to 
support the mother and family. 
This was the work of Voltaire. 


Sirven, a Protestant, lived in Languedoc with his 
wife and three daughters. The housekeeper of the 
bishop wanted to make one of the daughters a 

The law allowed the bishop to take the child of 
Protestants from their parents for the sake of its 
soul. This little girl was so taken and placed in a 
convent. She ran away and came back to her 
parents. Her poor little body was covered with the 
marks of the convent whip. 

" Suffer little children to come unto me." 

The child was out of her mind suddenly she 
disappeared, and a few days after her little body was 
found in a well, three miles from home. 


The cry was raised that her folks had murdered 
her to keep her from becoming a Catholic. 

This happened only a little way from the Christian 
City of Toulouse while Jean Calas was in prison. 
The Sirvens knew that a trial would end in convic- 
tion. They fled. In their absence they were con- 
victed, their property confiscated. The parents 
sentenced to die by the hangman, the daughters to 
be under the gallows during the execution of their 
mother, and then to be exiled. 

The family fled in the midst of winter ; the mar- 
ried daughter gave birth to a child in the snows of 
the Alps ; the mother died, and, at last reaching 
Switzerland, the father found himself without means 
of support. 

They went to Voltaire. He espoused their cause. 
He took care of them, gave them the means to live, 
and labored to annul the sentence that had been 
pronounced against them for nine long and weary 
years. He appealed to kings for money, to Catha- 
rine II. of Russia, and to hundreds of others. He 
was successful. He said of this case : The Sirvens 
were tried and condemned in two hours in January, 
1762, and now in January, 1772, after ten years of 
effort, they have been restored to their rights. 


This was the work of Voltaire. Why should the 
worshippers of God hate the lovers of men ? 


Espenasse was a Protestant, of good estate. In 
1 740 he received into his house a Protestant clergy- 
man, to whom he gave supper and lodging. 

In a country where priests repeated the parable of 
the " Good Samaritan," this was a crime. 

For this crime Espenasse was tried, convicted and 
sentenced to the galleys for life. 

When he had been imprisoned for twenty-three 
years his case came to the knowledge of Voltaire, 
and he was, through the efforts of Voltaire, released 
and restored to his family. 

This was the work of Voltaire. There is not time 
to tell of the case of General Lally, of the English 
General Byng, of the niece of Corneille, of the Jesuit 
Adam, of the writers, dramatists, actors, widows and 
orphans, for whose benefit he gave his influence, his 
money and his time. But I will tell another case : 


In 1765, at the town of Abbeville, an old wood- 
en cross on a bridge had been mutilated whittled 
with a knife a terrible crime. Sticks, when 
crossing each other, were far more sacred than 
flesh and blood. Two young men were suspect- 
ed the Chevalier de la Barre and D'Etallonde. 
D'Etallonde fled to Prussia and enlisted as a com- 
mon soldier. 

La Barre remained and stood his trial. 

He was convicted without the slightest evidence, 
and he and D'Etallonde were both sentenced : 

First, to endure the torture, ordinary and extra- 

Second, to have their tongues torn out by the 
roots with pincers of iron. 

Third, to have their right hands cut off at the 
door of the church. 

Fourth, to be bound to stakes by chains of iron 
and burned to death by a slow fire. 

" Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive trios 
who trespass against us." 

Remembering this, the Judges mitigated the sen- 
tence by providing that their heads should be cut off 
before their bodies were given to the flames. 

The case was appealed to Paris ; heard by a 


Court composed of twenty-five Judges, learned in 
the law, and the judgment was confirmed. 

The sentence was carried out on the first day of 
July, 1766. 

When Voltaire heard of this judicial infamy he 
made up his mind to abandon France. He wished 
to leave forever a country where such cruelties were 

He wrote a pamphlet, giving the history of the 

He ascertained the whereabouts of D'Etallonde, 
wrote in his behalf to the King of Prussia ; got him 
released from the Army ; took him to his own 
house ; kept him for a year and a half ; saw that he 
was instructed in drawing, mathematics, engineer- 
ing, and had at last the happiness of seeing him a 
captain of engineers in the army of Frederick the 

Such a man was Voltaire. He was the champion 
of the oppressed and the helpless. He was the 
Caesar to whom the victims of Church and State ap- 
pealed. He stood for the intellect and heart of his 

And yet for a hundred and fifty years those who 
love their enemies have exhausted the vocabulary 


of hate, the ingenuity of malice and mendacity, in 
their efforts to save their stupid creeds from the 
genius of Voltaire. 

From a great height he surveyed the world. His 
horizon was large. He had some vices these he 
shared in common with priests his virtues were 
his own. 

He was in favor of universal education of the 
development of the brain. The church despised 
him. He wished to put the knowledge of the whole 
world within the reach of all. Every priest was his 
enemy. He wished to drive from the gate of Eden 
the cherubim of superstition, so that the children of 
Adam might return and eat of the fruit of the tree 
of knowledge. The church opposed this because it 
had the fruit of the tree of ignorance for sale. 

He was one of the foremost friends of the Ency- 
clopedia of Diderot, and did all in his power to 
give information to all. So far as principles were 
concerned, he was the greatest lawyer of his time. 
I do not mean that he knew the terms and decisions, 
but that he clearly perceived not only what the law 
should be, but its application and administration. 
He understood the philosophy of evidence, the dif- 
ference between suspicion and proof, between belief 


and knowledge, and he did more to reform the laws 
of the kingdom and the abuses at Courts than all the 


lawyers and statesmen of his time. 

At school, he read and studied the works of 
Cicero the lord of language probably the great- 
est orator that has uttered speech, and the words of 
the Roman remained in his brain. He became, in 
spite of the spirit of caste, a believer in the equality 
of men. He said : 

" Men are born equal." 

" Let us respect virtue and merit." 

" Let us have it in the heart that men are equal." 

He was an abolitionist the enemy of slavery in 
all its forms. He did not think that the color of 
one man gave him the right to steal from another 
man on account of that man's color. He was the 
friend of serf and peasant, and did what he could to 
protect animals, wives and children from the fury of 
those who loved their neighbors as themselves. 

It was Voltaire who sowed the seeds of liberty in 
the heart and brain of Franklin, of Jefferson and 
Thomas Paine. 

Puffendorf had taken the ground that slavery 
was, in part, founded on contract. 

Voltaire said : " Show me the contract, and if it is 


signed by the party to be the slave, I may believe 

He thought it absurd that God should drown the 
fathers, and then come and die for the children. 
This is as good as the remark of Diderot : " If 
Christ had the power to defend himself from the 
Jews and refused to use it, he was guilty of suicide." 

He had sense enough to know that the flame of 
the fagot does not enlighten the mind. He hated 
the cruel and pitied the victims of Church and State. 
He was the friend of the unfortunate the helper of 
the striving. He laughed at the pomp of kings 
the pretensions of priests. He was a believer in the 
natural and abhorred with all his heart the miracu- 
lous and absurd. 

Voltaire was not a saint. He was educated by 
the Jesuits. He was never troubled about the salva- 
tion of his soul. All the theological disputes ex- 
cited his laughter, the creeds his pity, and the 
conduct of bigots his contempt. He was much 
better than a saint. 

Most of the Christians in his day kept their re- 
ligion not for every day use but for disaster, as ships 
carry life boats to be used only in the stress of 


Voltaire believed in the religion of humanity of 
good and generous deeds. For many centuries the 
church had painted virtue so ugly, sour and cold, 
that vice was regarded as beautiful. Voltaire taught 
the beauty of the useful, the hatefulness and hideous- 
ness of superstition. 

He was not the greatest of poets, or of dramatists, 
but he was the greatest man of his time, the greatest 
friend of freedom and the deadliest foe of supersti- 

He did more to break the chains of superstition 
to drive the phantoms of fear from the heart and 
brain, to destroy the authority of the church and to 
give liberty to the world than any other of the sons 
of men. In the highest, the holiest sense he was the 
most profoundly religious man of his time. 




A FTER an exile of twenty-seven years, occupying 
- ** during all that time a first place in the civil- 
ized world, Voltaire returned to Paris. His journey 
was a triumphal march. He was received as a con- 
queror. The Academy, the Immortals, came to 
meet him a compliment that had never been paid 
to royalty. His tragedy of " Irene " was performed. 
At the theatre he was crowned with laurel, covered 
with flowers ; he was intoxicated with perfume and 
with incense of worship. He was the supreme 
French poet, standing above them all. Among the 
literary men of the world he stood first a monarch 
by the divine right of genius. There were three 
mighty forces in France the throne, the altar and 

The king was the enemy of Voltaire. The Court 
could have nothing to do with him. The Church, 
malign and morose, was waiting for her revenge, and 


yet, such was the reputation of this man such the 
hold he had upon the people that he became, in 
spite of Throne, in spite of Church, the idol of 

He was an old man of eighty-four. He had been 
surrounded with the comforts, the luxuries of life. 
He was a man of great wealth, the richest writer 
that the world had known. Among the literary men 
of the earth he stood first. He was an intellectual 
king one who had built his own throne and 
had woven the purple of his own power. He was a 
man of genius. The Catholic God had allowed him 
the appearance of success. His last years were filled 
with the intoxication of flattery of almost worship. 
He stood at the summit of his age. 

The priests became anxious. They began to fear 
that God would forget, in a multiplicity of business, 
to make a terrible example of Voltaire. 

Towards the last of May, 1778, it was whispered 
"n Paris that Voltaire was dying. Upon the fences 
of expectation gathered the unclean birds of super- 
stition, impatiently waiting for their prey. 

" Two days before his death, his nephew went to 
seek the Cure" of Saint Sulpice and the Abbe Guatier, 
and brought them into his uncle's sick chamber. 


'Ah, well ! ' said Voltaire, ' give them my compliments 
and my thanks.' The Abbe spoke some words to 
him, exhorting him to patience. The Cure of Saint 
Sulpice then came forward, having announced him- 
self, and asked of Voltaire, elevating his voice, if he 
acknowledged the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
The sick man pushed one of his hands against the 
Cure's coif, shoving him back and cried, turning 
abruptly to the other side, ' Let me die in peace.' 
The Cure seemingly considered his person soiled 
and his coif dishonored by the touch of a philoso- 
pher. He made the nurse give him a little brushing 
and went out with the Abbe Guatier." 

He expired, says Wagniere, on the 3Oth of May, 
1778, at about a quarter-past eleven at night, with 
the most perfect tranquillity. A few moments before 
his last breath he took the hand of Morand, his valet 
de chambre, who was watching by him, pressed it, 
and said : "Adieu, my dear Morand, I am gone." 
These were his last words. Like a peaceful river 
with green and shaded banks, he flowed without a 
murmur into the waveless sea, where life is rest. 

From this death, so simple and serene, so kind, so 
philosophic and tender, so natural and peaceful ; 
from these words, so utterly destitute of cant or 


dramatic touch, all the frightful pictures, all the 
despairing utterances, have been drawn and made. 
From these materials, and from these alone, or 
rather, in spite of these facts, have been constructed 
by priests and clergymen and their dupes all the 
shameless lies about the death of this great and 
wonderful man. A man, compared with whom all 
of his calumniators, dead and living, were, and are, 
but dust and vermin. 

Let us be honest. Did all the priests of Rome in- 
crease the mental wealth of man as much as Bruno ? 
Did all the priests of France do as great a work for 
the civilization of the world as Voltaire or Diderot ? 
Did all the ministers of Scotland add as much to the 
sum of human knowledge as David Hume ? Have 
all the clergymen, monks, friars, ministers, priests, 
bishops, cardinals and popes, from the day of 
Pentecost to the last election, done as much for 
human liberty as Thomas Paine ? 

What would the world be if infidels had never 
been ? 

The Infidels have been the brave and thoughtful 
men ; the flower of all the world ; the pioneers and 
heralds of the blessed day of liberty and love ; the 
generous spirits of the unworthy past ; the seers and 


prophets of our race ; the great chivalric souls, 
proud victors on the battlefields of thought, the cred- 
itors of all the years to be. 

Why should it be taken for granted that the men 
who devoted their lives to the liberation of their 
fellow-men should have been hissed at in the hour of 
death by the snakes of conscience, while men who 
defended slavery practiced polygamy justified the 
stealing of babes from the breasts of mothers, and 
lashed the naked back of unpaid labor, are supposed 
to have passed smilingly from earth to the embraces 
of the angels ? Why should we think that the brave 
thinkers, the investigators, the honest men, must have 
left the crumbling shore of time in dread and fear, 
while the instigators of the massacre of St. Bartholo- 
mew ; the inventors and users of thumb-screws, of 
iron boots and racks ; the burners and tearers of 
human flesh ; the stealers, the whippers and the en- 
slavers of men ; the buyers and beaters of maidens, 
mothers and babes ; the founders of the Inquisition ; 
the makers of chains ; the builders of dungeons ; the 
calumniators of the living ; the slanderers of the 
dead, and even the murderers of Jesus Christ, all 
died in the odor of sanctity, with white, forgiven 
hands folded upon the breasts of peace, while the 


destroyers of prejudice, the apostles of humanity, the 
soldiers of liberty, the breakers of fetters, the crea- 
tors of light, died surrounded by the fierce fiends of 

In those days the philosophers that is to say, the 
thinkers were not buried in holy ground. It was 
feared that their principles might contaminate the 
ashes of the just. And they also feared that on the 
morning of the Resurrection they might, in a mo- 
ment of confusion, slip into heaven. Some were 
burned, and their ashes scattered ; and the bodies of 
some were thrown naked to beasts, and others buried 
in unholy earth. 

Voltaire knew the history of Adrienne Le 
Couvreur, a beautiful actress, denied burial. 

After all, we do feel an interest in what is to be- 
come of our bodies. There is a modesty that be- 
longs to death. Upon this subject Voltaire was 
infinitely sensitive. It was that he might be buried 
that he went through the farce of confession, of ab- 
solution, and of the last sacrament. The priests 
knew that he was not in earnest, and Voltaire knew 
that they would not allow him to be buried in any 
of the cemeteries of Paris. 

His death was kept a secret. The Abbe Mignot 


made arrangements for the burial at Romilli-on-the- 
Seine, more than 100 miles from Paris. On Sunday 
evening, on the last day of May, 1778, the body of 
Voltaire, clad in a dressing gown, clothed to re- 
semble an invalid, posed to simulate life, was placed 
in a carriage ; at its side, a servant, whose business 
it was to keep it in position. To this carriage were 
attached six horses, so that people might think a 
great lord was going to his estates. Another 
carriage followed, in which were a grand nephew 
and two cousins of Voltaire. All night they trav- 
eled, and on the following day arrived at the court- 
yard of the Abbey. The necessary papers were 
shown, the mass was performed in the presence of 
the body, and Voltaire found burial. A few mo- 
ments afterwards, the Prior, who " for charity had 
given a little earth," received from his Bishop a 
menacing letter forbidding the burial of Voltaire. It 
was too late. 

Voltaire was dead. The foundations of State and 
Throne had been sapped. The people were becom- 
ing acquainted with the real kings and with the act- 
ual priests. Unknown men born in misery and want, 
men whose fathers and mothers had been pavement 
for the rich, were rising towards the light, and their 


shadowy faces were emerging from darkness. Labor 
and thought became friends. That is, the gutter 
and the attic fraternized. The monsters of the Night 
and the angels of the Dawn the first thinking of 
revenge, and the others dreaming of equality, liberty 
and fraternity. 




A LL kinds of criminals, except infidels, meet 
^^ death with reasonable serenity. As a rule, 
there is nothing in the death of a pirate to cast any 
discredit on his profession. The murderer upon the 
scaffold, with a priest on either side, smilingly ex- 
horts the multitude to meet him in heaven. . The 
man who has succeeded in making his home a hell, 
meets death without a quiver, provided he has never 
expressed any doubt as to the divinity of Christ, or 
the eternal " procession '' of the Holy Ghost. The 
king who has waged cruel and useless war, who has 
filled countries with widows and fatherless children, 
with the maimed and diseased, and who has suc- 
ceeded in offering to the Moloch of ambition the 
best and bravest of his subjects, dies like a saint. 

All the believing kings are in heaven all the 
doubting philosophers in perditions All the perse- 
cutors sleep in peace, and the ashes of those who 


burned their brothers, sleep in consecrated ground. 
Libraries could hardly contain the names of the 
Christian wretches who have filled the world with 
violence and death in defence of book and creed, 
and yet they all died the death of the righteous, and 
no priest, no minister, describes the agony and fear, 
the remorse and horror with which their guilty souls 
were filled in the last moments of their lives. These 
men had never doubted they had never thought 
they accepted the creed as they did the fashion of 
their clothes. They were not infidels, they could 
not be they had been baptized, they had not 
denied the divinity of Christ they had partaken 
of the " last supper." They respected priests 
they admitted that Christ had two natures and the 
same number of wills ; they admitted that the Holy 
Ghost had " proceeded," and that, according to the 
multiplication table of heaven, once one is three, and 
three times one is one, and these things put pillows 
beneath their heads and covered them with the 
drapery of peace. 

That, while kings and priests did nothing worse 
than to make their fellows wretched, that so long as 
they only butchered and burnt the innocent and 
helpless, God would maintain the strictest neutrality ; 


but, when some honest man, some great and tender 
soul, expressed a doubt as to the truth of the Scrip- 
tures, or prayed to the wrong God, or to the right 
one by the wrong name, then the real God leaped 
like a wounded tiger upon his victim, and from his 
quivering flesh tore his wretched soul. 

There is no recorded instance where the uplifted 
hand of murder has been paralyzed no truthful 
account in all the literature of the world of the inno- 
cent child being shielded by God. Thousands of 
crimes are being committed every day men are at 
this moment lying in wait for their human prey 
wives are whipped and crushed, driven to insanity 
and death little children begging for mercy, lifting 
imploring, tear-filled eyes to the brutal faces of 
fathers and mothers sweet girls are deceived, 
lured and outraged, but God has no time to prevent 
these things no time to defend the good and pro- 
tect the pure. He is too busy numbering hairs and 
watching sparrows. He listens for blasphemy ; 
looks for persons who laugh at priests ; examines 
baptismal registers ; watches professors in college 
who begin to doubt the geology of Moses and the 
astronomy of Joshua. He does hot particularly ob- 
ject to stealing, if you won't swear. A great many 


persons have fallen dead in the act of taking God's 
name in vain, but millions of men, women and chil- 
dren have been stolen from their homes and used as 
beasts of burden, but no one engaged in this infamy 
has ever been touched by the wrathful hand of God. 
Now and then a man of genius, of sense, of intel- 
lectual honesty, has appeared. Such men have de- 
nounced the superstitions of their day. They have 
pitied the multitude. To see priests devour the 
substance of the people priests who made beg- 
ging one of the learned professions filled them 
with loathing and contempt. These men were hon- 
est enough to tell their thoughts, brave enough to 
speak the truth. Then they were denounced, tried, 
tortured, killed by rack or flame. But some escaped 
the fury of the fiends who love their enemies, and 
died naturally in their beds. It would not do for 
the Church to admit that they died peacefully. That 
would show that religion was not essential at the last 
moment. Superstition gets its power from the ter- 
ror of death. It would not do to have the common 
people understand that a man could deny the Bible 
-refuse to kiss the cross contend that Humanity 
was greater than Christ, and then die as sweetly as 
Torquemada did, after pouring molten lead into the 


ears of an honest man ; or as calmly as Calvin after 
he had burned Servetus ; or as peacefully as King 
David after advising with his last breath one son to 
assassinate another. 

The Church has taken great pains to show that 
the last moments of all infidels (that Christians did 
not succeed in burning) were infinitely wretched 
and despairing. It was alleged that words could 
not paint the horrors that were endured by a dying 
infidel. Every good Christian was expected to, and 
generally did, believe these accounts. They have 
been told and retold in every pulpit of the world. 
Protestant ministers have repeated the lies invented 
by Catholic priests, and Catholics, by a kind of theo- 
logical comity, have sworn to the lies told by the 
Protestants. Upon this point they have always 
stood together, and will as long as the same false- 
hood can be used by both. 

Instead of doing these things, Voltaire wilfully 
closed his eyes to the light of the gospel, examined 
the Bible for himself, advocated intellectual liberty, 
struck from the brain the fetters of an arrogant 
faith, assisted the weak, cried out against the torture 
of man, appealed to reason, endeavored to establish 
universal toleration, succored the indigent, and de- 
fended the oppressed. 


He demonstrated that the origin of all religions is 
the same, the same mysteries the same miracles 
the same imposture the same temples and cere- 
monies the same kind of founders, apostles and 
dupes the same promises and threats the same 
pretence of goodness and forgiveness and the prac- 
tice of the same persecution and murder. He proved 
that religion made enemies philosophy friends 
and that above the rights of Gods were the rights of 

These were his crimes. Such a man God would 
not suffer to die in peace. If allowed to meet death 
with a smile, others might follow his example, until 
none would be left to light the holy fires of the auto 
dafe. It would not do for so great, so successful an 
enemy of the Church, to die without leaving some 
shriek of fear, some shudder of remorse, some ghast- 
ly prayer of chattered horror, uttered by lips covered 
with blood and foam. 

For many centuries the theologians have taught 
that an unbeliever an infidel one who spoke or 
wrote against their creed, could not meet death with 
composure ; that in his last moments God would fill 
his conscience with the serpents of remorse. 

For a thousand years the clergy have manufac- 


tured the facts to fit this theory this infamous con- 
ception of the duty of man and the justice of God. 

The theologians have insisted that crimes against 
man were, and are, as nothing compared with crimes 
against God. 

Upon the death-bed subject the clergy grow elo- 
quent. When describing the shudderings and 
shrieks of the dying unbeliever, their eyes glitter 
with delight. 

It is a festival. 

They are no longer men. They become hyenas. 
They dig open graves. They devour the dead. 

It is a banquet. 

Unsatisfied still, they paint the terrors of Hell. 
They gaze at the souls of the infidels writhing in the 
coils of the worm that never dies. They see* them 
in flames in oceans of fire in gulfs of pain in 
abysses of despair. They shout with joy. They 

It is an auto dafe, presided over by God. 




COR four hundred years the Bastile had been the 
outward symbol of oppression. Within its walls 
the noblest had perished. It was a perpetual threat. 
It was the last, and often the first, argument of king 
and priest. Its dungeons, damp and rayless, its mas- 
sive towers, its secret cells, its instruments of torture, 
denied the existence of God. 

In 1789, on the i4th of July, the people, the mul- 
titude, frenzied by suffering, stormed and captured 
the Bastile. The battle-cry was " Vive Voltaire." 

In 1791 permission was given to place in the Pan- 
theon the ashes of Voltaire. He had been buried 
1 10 miles from Paris. Buried by stealth, he was to 
be removed by a nation. A funeral procession of a 
hundred miles ; every village with its flags and 
arches ; all the people anxious to honor the philoso- 
pher of France the Savior of Calas the De- 
stroyer of Superstition. 

On reaching Paris the great procession moved 
along the Rue St. Antoine. Here it paused, and 


for one night upon the ruins of the Bastile rested the 
body of Voltaire rested in triumph, in glory - 
rested on fallen wall and broken arch, on crumbling 
stone still damp with tears, on rusting chain and bar 
and useless bolt above the dungeons dark and 
deep, where light had faded from the lives of men 
and hope had died in breaking hearts. 

The conqueror resting upon the conquered. 
Throned upon the Bastile, the fallen fortress of 
Night, the body of Voltaire, from whose brain had 
issued the Dawn. 

For a moment his ashes must have felt the Pro- 
methean fire, and the old smile must have illumined 
once more the face of death. 

The vast multitude bowed in reverence, hushed 
with love and awe heard these words uttered by a 
priest : " God shall be avenged." 

The cry of the priest was a prophecy. Priests 
skulking in the shadows with faces sinister as night, 
ghouls in the name of the Gospel, desecrated the 
grave. They carried away the ashes of Voltaire. 

The tomb is empty. 

God is avenged. 

The world is filled with his fame. 

Man has conquered. 


Was there in the Eighteenth Century, a man 
wearing the vestments of the church, the equal of 
Voltaire ? 

What cardinal, what bishop, what priest in France 
raised his voice for the rights of men ? What ec- 
clesiastic, what nobleman, took the side of the op- 
pressed of the peasant? Who denounced the 
frightful criminal code the torture of suspected 
persons ? What priest pleaded for the liberty of the 
citizen ? What bishop pitied the victims of the 
rack ? Is there the grave of a priest in France on 
which a lover of liberty would now drop a flower or 
a tear ? Is there a tomb holding the ashes of a saint 
from which emerges one ray of light ? 

If there be another life a day of judgment, no 
God can afford to torture in another world the man 
who abolished torture in this. If God be the keeper 
of an eternal penitentiary, he should not imprison 
there the men who broke the chains of slavery here. 
He cannot afford to make an eternal convict of 

Voltaire was a perfect master of the French lan- 
guage, knowing all its moods, tenses and declina- 
tions, in fact and in feeling playing upon it as 
skillfully as Paganini on his violin, finding' expres- 


sion for every thought and fancy, writing on the 
most serious subjects with the gayety of a harele- 
quin, plucking jests from the crumbling mouth 
of death, graceful as the waving of willows, deal- 
ing in double meanings that covered the asp with 
flowers and flattery master of satire and com- 
pliment mingling them often in the same line, 
always interested himself, and therefore interesting 
others handling thoughts, questions, subjects as a 
juggler does balls, keeping them in the air with per- 
fect ease dressing old words in new meanings, 
charming, grotesque, pathetic, mingling mirth with 
tears, wit and wisdom, and sometimes wickedness, 
logic and laughter. With a woman's instinct know- 
ing the sensitive nerves just where to touch- 
hating arrogance of place, the stupidity of the solemn 
snatching masks from priest and king, knowing 
the springs of action and ambition's ends perfectly 
familiar with the great world the intimate of kings, 
and their favorites, sympathizing with the oppressed 
and imprisoned, with the unfortunate and poor, 
hating tyranny, despising superstition, and loving 
liberty with all his heart. Such was Voltaire writing 
" CEdipus " at seventeen, " Irene " at eighty-three, 
and crowding between these two tragedies the ac- 
complishment of a thousand lives. 


From his throne at the foot of the Alps, he 
pointed the finger of scorn at every hypocrite in 
Europe. For half a century, past rack and stake, 
past dungeon and cathedral, past altar and throne, he 
carried with brave hands the sacred torch of Reason, 
whose light at last will flood the world. 

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WASHINGTON, D. C., July 10, 1889. 

I wish to notify the public that all books and pamphlets purporting to contain my lec- 
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VA. A_ ._ ~^~ 

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As to the contents, it is enough to say that they include some of the choicest 
utterances of the greatest writer on the topics treated that has ever lived. 

Those who have not the good fortune to own all of Mr. Ingersoll's published 
works, vrill have in this book of selections many bright samples of his lofty thought, 
his matchless eloquence, his wonderful imagery, and his epigrammatic and poetic 
power. The collection includes all of the " Tributes " that have become famous in 
literature notably those to his brother E. C. Ingersoll, Lincoln, Grant, Beecher and 
Elizur Wright ; his peerless monograms on " The Vision of War," Love, Liberty, 
Science, Nature, The Imagination, Decoration Day Oration, and on the great heroes 
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141 Full-page Half-tone Portraits of the Most Eminent Free- 
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"NEW YORK, Nov. 4, 1894. 

"DEAR PUTNAM: Well, I have read the " Four Hundred Years of Free- 
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A 000 609 








INDEPENDENCE, July 4, 1876. 


SPEECH AT CINCINNATI IN 1876. nominating 

James G. Blaine for the Presidency. 

an extract from a Speech made at the Soldiers and Sailors 
Reunion at Indianapolis, Indiana, Sept. 21, 1876. 






TALMAGE, D. D. ; to which is added a 


And FOUR PREFACES, which contain some of Mr. Ingersoll's 
wittiest and brightest sayings. 

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has had the greatest popularity, is beautifully bound in Half 
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About the Holy Bible 

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| Lecture on Abraham Lincoln I 

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The indignant protests thereby evoked from Ministers of various denomina- 

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